How about another list? Again, we're looking for shows that embody the Christian ethos, and not necessarily shows that are explicitly about Christianity. Here goes, for me, in ascending order:
11. The Honeymooners. Actually, I almost wrote in The Red Skelton Show, or the first incarnation of The Jackie Gleason Show. The reasoning's the same: these are shows featuring the clown (Freddie the Freeloader, The Poor Soul, Ralph Kramden) whom the world would consider unworthy of our attention or affection. The Honeymooners is probably the best show ever made about a blue-collar Joe. It is diagnostic of our materialism that we haven't had a character like that on television in more than a generation. The title character of Everyone Loves Raymond does not really make the grade. As a comedy show alone, all other considerations aside, I'd rank The Honeymooners higher, even first or second.
10. The Loretta Young Show. It was Miss Young's avowed intent to preach by means of her weekly dramatic sketches, and preach she did. But she did it well — she was an accomplished actress, and the roles she played covered an impressively wide range. The show was very popular in its time.
9. Leave It To Beaver. Easy to make fun of this show, especially when you haven't seen it in a long time, but the writing was consistently clever, the boys were boys (and not smart-mouthed imitation adults), and the purpose of the family was clearly to bring up the next generation in integrity and love. Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver, was a Methodist minister, and it shows.
8. Marcus Welby, M. D. Conservative for the time; reliably pro-life not only in the matter of abortion but in affirming the dignity of all human lives, even those of the handicapped or the psychologically troubled or the mentally retarded. Medicine with a human face. St. Elsewhere, edgy and salacious though it often was, might well have been included on this list.
7. Davey and Goliath. Early clay-mation — and excellent. I can still hear the trumpets playing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The Lutherans produced this show, but Christians of all sorts loved it. It had a moral and dogmatic intent, and could move you close to tears, but it was also genuinely funny. "I'm queen of the May, I'm queen of the May," sings Goliath, as he runs around the maypole with a streamer in his mouth.
6. Fulton Sheen. The most human and humorous and shrewdly learned of all the television preachers. It says something about the time that for a while Bishop Sheen was the most popular figure on television, beating out that hard-bitten Milton Berle.
5. Father Knows Best. Another Robert Young show, and another show people belittle, who have not watched it in decades, or who have never watched it. The joke was that Father often did not know best, but he was still the Father, and somehow or other elicited both reverence and love from his children. Robert Young and Jane Wyatt have never been excelled, for showing in a comedy the love of husband and wife.
4. Bonanza. A fine cast, and a fine idea, often carrying second-rate writing farther than it had any right to go; yet it was always entertaining. The show was consistently about moral rectitude, including personal sacrifice, and it was clear that the Cartwrights were devout Bible-reading Christians.
3. Star Trek. Strange choice, at first glance; the producer Gene Roddenberry was Jewish, I believe, as are William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. But it's hard not to include somewhere a show whose two principal influences are The Book of Genesis and Paradise Lost, and whose opening episode affirms the singleness of God and the fall of man.
2. Gunsmoke. This show started off great, and got better as the seasons went on; the very best episodes are those of its second decade, in color, with Ken Curtis as Festus, the wise fool and television's greatest sidekick. Yes, there were saloon girls, and yes, Miss Kitty was (in the early shows especially) obviously Matt Dillon's woman. But it is hard to find a show more affirmative of the holiness of marriage, or the need to uphold the law, or the terrible beauty of a man willing to put his life on the line for his fellows — and often his unappreciative fellows. Possibly the greatest show in television history, or it would be, were it not for
1. The Twilight Zone. Not science fiction, this! These were half-hour morality plays, laying bare the shame of man, but also celebrating his dignity. Rod Serling was a liberal back in the day when that meant an uncompromising affirmation of the value of every individual, including the weakest and the least among us, as against the brazen claims of technocrats, social engineers of the right and the left, and the power of brute nature. The writing ranges from very good to stupendous, as does the acting — by an astonishing medley of old stars (Gladys Cooper, Buster Keaton, Cedric Hardwicke), new stars (Lee Marvin, Robert Redford, Anne Francis, Dennis Weaver, Cliff Robertson), and incomparable character actors (Burgess Meredith, Nehemiah Persoff, Jeannette Nolan, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, John Dehner, John Anderson). A down-and-out boxer who can't believe; a young woman who doesn't want to be made pretty; a man stranded alone on a planet; a little boy who wants everybody to think only happy thoughts –it seems that there was not a single human situation that this show did not probe.
Honorable Mention: The Beverly Hillbillies, Misterogers, Make Room for Daddy, Have Gun Will Travel, Columbo, The Donna Reed Show, The Fugitive, Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons (first few seasons only), Law and Order, My Three Sons.